Since July 1, a max contract extension of five-years, $207 million has been sitting in front of Russell Westbrook. He has yet to sign it. He hasn’t declined it, either. That has made some Thunder fans and executives nervous — last year after Kevin Durant left Westbrook signed a one-year extension almost instantly, expressing loyalty to the franchise, then went on to have a historic MVP season. This summer he hasn’t done anything.
It’s led to rumors Westbrook wants out. Lakers fans want to think he will join LeBron James on their team (where does that leave Paul George?), but Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report notes that’s not what most around the league expect to happen.
That said, when asked, various NBA executives believe Westbrook will eventually sign his deal with the Thunder.
Westbrook seems to be taking a page out of LeBron’s playbook — not quickly signing the deal keeps pressure on the organization to spend money and upgrade talent. Once Westbrook signs, will the Thunder owners continue to pay the luxury tax (they are $9.5 million over the tax line now)? It’s the reason LeBron has signed short deals in Cleveland, to keep pressure on Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers, and to give himself options.
Westbrook has options because he can get the exact same contract next July that is on the table right now from the Thunder. Technically Westbrook has until Oct. 16 to sign this “designated veteran” extension that gets him 35 percent of the salary cap starting next season, but after next season he will be a 10-year veteran and the Thunder can offer that same 35 percent to him. The money doesn’t change (if anything, it will go up a little if the cap goes up).
What Westbrook gets signing before the deadline is security — that’s guaranteed money. He probably will take that. But he doesn’t have to.